Keeping your e-shots on target: what the new Gmail feature means for marketers


Google is rolling out a new function for Gmail that will make it even easier for consumers to banish brands from their inbox.

The new ‘unsubscribe’ button, which will appear in the subject line of emails that Google thinks may have come from a marketer or spammer, has some pretty big implications for the way brands and agencies approach email newsletter strategy.

The development follows last year’s tabbed inbox release, which saw huge drops in the open rates of brand and sales emails, with most of these types of message automatically moved into the rarely-viewed ‘Promotions’ tab.

To help you navigate the ever-increasing pitfalls of email marketing and keep your e-shots on target, we’ve compiled these top tips.

Only send the mail that matters

To borrow a phrase from Marshall Mathers, this new unsubscribe function means marketers ‘only get one shot’ to make an impression on their audience, as at the slightest provocation the consumer can opt out with even more ease than before. That means it’s more important than ever to be selective in the emails you send out and make sure each one properly supports your strategy. That means no more bombarding audiences with repetitive messages or using an intriguing subject line that doesn’t relate closely to the content – both surefire ways to get people sending your e-shots to the trash.

This e-shot from Liberty is a good example of packing a lot in to one message to maximise its impact. It’s a guide aiming to solve your Valentine’s gift-giving dilemmas and covers the subject from an impressive array of angles.

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It pays to get personal (most of the time)

Increasingly hostile inbox environments also put more pressure on marketers and brands to segment their content, as a stream of irrelevant emails about the wrong type of product (based on data such as gender, age or buying history) could easily send cursors straying towards the ‘delete’ button.

Timberland asks users for their gender when they sign up to receive its newsletter.

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Back when I signed up I ticked ‘Male’ and, lo and behold, look at the type of messages that land in my account.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 13.14.07

While segmentation like this is definitely effective in winning over audiences, the jury is still out on ‘over-personalisation’ – the idea that sometimes being over-familiar can actually hurt your campaigns. The most common example of this is personalised salutations, where a brand uses the customer’s first name in its greeting: “Hi Tom, We just wanted to let you know about our latest great value deals”.

Test, test and test again

If you’ve been in email marketing for a while you should be familiar with the concept of subject line split testing. It’s a vital instrument in your toolbox and can help ecommerce pros, brand marketers and agency staff alike to wring the most out of their email marketing campaigns. Of course it isn’t enough just to test – it’s important that you track the findings and analyse them in future broadcasts, refining your testing strategy as you go.

With our client Kickers, for instance, we developed an on-going testing strategy and compiled the results of split tests on all emails broadcast in the past year, creating a handy (and continually updated) ‘cheat sheet’ of information on the tone, length and content of the subject lines that were most effective in different scenarios.

Split testing also helped us develop the subject line for an abandoned basket email (sent out by the brand when the site detects an incomplete purchase journey), which considerably outperforms industry averages and reclaimed more than £23,000 in sales in its first six months.

Consistency pays

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking email marketing is a quick and dirty way of getting a message out or grabbing a few extra sales, and not taking time to fully appreciate how powerful a tool it can be – both in the way it can support your overall marketing strategy and also the potential damage it can do if executed poorly.

Great email newsletters can drive sales, increase brand love and even create a dialogue between you and your audience.

As part of our work with the European Parkinson’s Disease Association we created an email template for its regular newsletter, EPDA Update. We knew that it was important to keep the emails visually consistent with the rest of the organisation’s branding in order for it to be seen as an EPDA channel that provided useful, authoritative information. Check out the results below:

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EPDA Update email


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The main EPDA website

Where next?
More posts by Tom Owen
More ‘how to’ posts
View our work on branded content

Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media.

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